Wetenschap - 20 juni 2002

Scholarship programme changes will be felt in Wageningen

Scholarship programme changes will be felt in Wageningen

The Netherlands Organization for international cooperation in higher education (Nuffic) recently reshaped its scholarship programmes. The major change for Wageningen is that those granted scholarships can choose to study at any higher education institution in the Netherlands.

The Dutch ministry of development cooperation signed an agreement at the beginning of June to continue support for higher education for developing countries. While the budget of 220 million euros for the next four years remains unchanged, the amount awarded per scholarship has increased. While this is good news for current scholarship holders, it means the total number of scholarships will go down. Under the Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP) individuals are awarded a scholarship to study abroad. The Institutional Development Programme finances universities in developing countries.

Until this year Wageningen was one of the few institutions in the Netherlands allowed to accept NFP scholars as it had a separate English language MSc programme. As of January 2003 all higher education institutions in the Netherlands will be open to NFP scholars. This will increase the competition for Wageningen University admits Bert Boerrigter, international coordinator of the department of Student Affairs here. However, he is optimistic: "Previously the number of scholarships was fixed at twenty. These are no longer guaranteed, but if we do well we will attract more students. We have a lot to offer."

That the total budget has not increased remains a bone of contention. The budget is low and not even corrected for inflation. Boerrigter says that Wageningen University has protested together with other universities, but in vain. One effect of the decrease in the number of scholarships is that it will reinforce Wageningen UR's policy of focusing its recruitment efforts on self-financing international students. In practice this will mean more students from relatively rich countries in Asia or Latin America and fewer from Africa.

Changes have also been introduced in the grants application procedure. Previously part of the funds were allocated to individual students. Now all applications must come via the employer of the prospective scholar, often research or educational institutions. This new construction gives institutions a bigger say in who is to be awarded a scholarship and where an employee is allowed to study. The Nuffic programmes now have longer term agreements with institutions in about ten developing countries, guaranteeing them a certain number of scholarships each year.

Joris Tielens

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